"You know ahh.. I went to Turkey, the Muslims there have so much freedom to practice their religion," said my Chinese friend who is an avid traveller.
"Oh? What do you mean?" I asked her quietly, smiling meaningfully as I waited for her to explain.
"Only a few Muslim women wear the tudung there.. the rest don't wear tudung. And my tour guide is so cute; she doesn't pray 5 times a day. She told me she prays whenever she thinks suitable," my friend laughed.
"Oh.. I see. Well, Turkey is a secular country."
"No, no.. Turkey is a Muslim country, right? And the Indonesians are so liberal la.. they don't behave or think like what the Malaysian Muslims here do. They are free to live as they like and wear as they like. Not like we see here, the girls are forced to wear the tudung even when they don't like it. Here, we see Muslims instructing other Muslims to live their way."
"Actually, the wearing of tudung and to pray 5 times a day is stated very clearly in the al-Quran. Those who don't follow are the ones who have problems," I tried to explain to her.
I paused and added, "But you know right, the Muslims in Turki can't wear tudung into the schools and universities even when they want to? You do know that in Turkey, women are banned from wearing tudung in government institutions?"
Her face changed. She froze. "No.. I didn't know that? Really ah?"
I nodded."Yes, Muslim women in Turkey are banned from wearing tudung in schools and universities. That's why you see only a few women in tudung when you're there. Those who wear tudung will not be allowed to enter the schools and public universities. I suppose you tour guide didn't tell you that?"
Sometimes I wonder how other people regard me. There I was, a Muslim all clad in tudung, baju kurung and covered from head to toe except my face and palms of my hands (more covered than some Malay ladies sitting beside us), and this Chinese friend was saying things about my religion as if I were not one of its faithful followers :P. Perhaps the fact that I speak their language (Chinese) and still think like one of them, makes them forget at times that I take Islam seriously, only that I don't force the religion down their throats.
She looked at me seriously and said, "Then that shows that the Muslims can never be united. They can't even decide when to wear tudung and when not to. They share one religion but they have so many different interpretations. In Turkey they interpret it one way, in Indonesia another way and here in Malaysia, we see a more extreme version of Islam. "